By David Fallon in Ireland

Last October, the World Rally Championship came to Ireland for the first time. Many wondered if it would be a success, but those doubts went unfounded.

At the recent Autosport International motorsport show in Birmingham, drivers and team managers were full of praise for the event, which will be the opening round in February 2009.

Jari-Matti Latvala, who was with Stobart Ford, took his first podium position with a third place finish and speaking at Autosport international, said he loved the event.

“It was very nice to be in Ireland and the rally was very well organized,” he said.

It was a point that his new boss, Malcolm Wilson agreed with. “I really take my hat off to the them, the new events really set the standard and Ireland was one of them, and for me it’s great to see that we are going to kick off the World Championship so close to home in 2009, but I just know that everyone will put all the passion and effort into the event and deliver the goods.

“They did a great job in 2007; I had my reservations before the start. I just felt that the traffic management would have been the biggest problem, but it was just amazing to see the way the two police forces worked together. That side was fantastic and also the organisation. It was a very brave move to go to Stormont, what a major coup, and a great place to kick off the rally. We’re looking forward to going back next year,” Wilson said.

Suburu boss David Richards remembers the passion of the fans.

“One of the things that people don't put a measure on, other than if the timing was accurate, is how good is the safety and all these other technical aspects, but the biggest and highest marks should go for the atmosphere, support from the crowd and the whole welcome that the teams get. If you got marks for that, Ireland would be number one.”

Guy Wilks, who finished sixth in Rally Ireland, agreed with Richards about the atmosphere. “It was fantastic. It is strange that as a driver you think that in colder weather that the atmosphere will be less, but somehow Ireland didn't disappoint with a lot of people passionate about motorsport.

“I was excited about going there months beforehand and when I got there, it lived up to expectations. It weas a fantastically organised event and they couldn’t do enough for you. But as driver in a WRC in Ireland, the event was very difficult.

“In those conditions, the world championship drivers are used to taking the quickest line and they were cutting the road where it was okay for the first three drivers to do so. It was just incredible, the amount of mud on the road. I think if everyone had stuck to the tarmac, it would have been a much quicker rally, but it made it more exciting for the spectators. I remember the first stage, it was like a bombsite, it was different and challenging and we'd not seen that before,” Wilks said.

“You had Sebastian Loeb at the end of day one wanting to go home. It wasn't the fact that he didn't like the hospitality; it was just the fact that it was so difficult and he had to do everything in his power to lead the event. I loved every minute of it, but not possibly at the time.”

Final word on Rally Ireland goes to Philip Morrow, the young driver from Northern Ireland: “You couldn't fault it, the stages were fantastic. For me, in a production car in my home event, I was able to race the best drivers in the world.”

Get full, exclusive access for only $6.55/month.
  • Full access
  • Exclusive news
  • Store & Tour discounts

Show Your Support


Recent Posts